A group of Illinois business and civic organizations has come together in an effort to bring more jobs to the state by holding government accountable for the impact its tax-and-spend policies, especially fees charged to businesses, have on the state’s economy.
Members of the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity on May 5 unveiled a media campaign aimed at challenging Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) and lawmakers to consider the “negative impacts proposed tax and fee increases would have on Illinois jobs.” The coalition requested a meeting with the governor in hopes of finding “common ground on the proposed budget for the sake of working men and women and the unemployed throughout the state.”
As this issue of Budget & Tax News went to press, the governor had not responded to the request.
The state’s budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, has at least a $1.5 billion deficit. State policymakers have yet to reach consensus on how to correct the situation.
Recovery Misses Illinois
“As a state, we have not responded quickly enough to the changing economic landscape, and therefore remain behind the U.S. and our neighboring states in job growth,” said Gregory W. Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, a member of the coalition.
“With the national economy showing signs of life,” Baise continued, “we need to act today to carry this recovery to every Illinois county. Continuing the trend to tax and raise fees on employers impedes Illinois’ opportunity of joining the recovery. With this media campaign, we urge the governor and lawmakers to show leadership and vision this month.”
An analysis of 1990-2004 employment data, conducted for the coalition by the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois, shows the state’s employment growth rate lags the nation and the rest of the Midwest.
According to the REAL report, if Illinois began with its 1990 employment base and experienced employment growth at the national average, the state would have had 451,376 more jobs in 2003 and 455,482 more jobs in 2004. If Illinois had seen employment growth at only the Midwest average, the state would have had 263,064 more jobs in 2003 and 302,692 more jobs in 2004. According to REAL, the state’s employment picture showed no trace of improvement in 2004.
Other states are actively recruiting Illinois businesses, many of whom have been hard hit by increases in employer fees and taxes imposed by Illinois lawmakers last year.
The coalition’s television ads, which began airing in the state capital in early May, shed light on the shortcomings of Blagojevich’s budget proposal, which coalition members warn will fuel job losses in the state. According to Jeffrey Mays, president and CEO of the Illinois Business Roundtable, Illinois workers can ill afford continued political bickering at this critical juncture in the nation’s economic recovery.
The group has budgeted $450,000 to present its message throughout downstate Illinois. According to Douglas Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, the coalition will remain bipartisan in its advocacy efforts.
“While we’re currently focusing our message on the governor’s budget proposal, the overriding concern is creating an environment where Illinois employers can compete in the Midwest and elsewhere within the U.S.,” Whitley explained. “No political party has a monopoly on wanting prosperity. People who are out of work just want things to get better, and they expect Springfield to help, not make matters worse.”
The coalition inaugurated its public information campaign in early 2003 with bipartisan ads and telephone messages pointing out the pro-jobs voting records of Democratic State Representatives Lou Lang of Skokie, Arthur Turner of Chicago, and Patrick Verschoore of Milan, as well as Republicans Suzanne Bassi of Palatine and Robert Pritchard of Sycamore. The coalition also targeted the anti-employer voting record of State Representative Mike Boland of East Moline.
The coalition represents firms employing more than one million Illinois workers. The group’s founding members are the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Business Roundtable, Illinois Civil Justice League, Illinois Manufacturers Association, and Illinois State Chamber of Commerce.
In a May 26 article in the Chicago Tribune, a spokesperson for the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Becky Carroll, described the coalition, and specifically Whitley, as “fighting on behalf of special interests.”
“People who dismiss Illinois’ employment problems as ‘special-interest’ lobbying aren’t in tune with what is happening to the real people in this state,” Mays responded. “If our elected officials in Springfield want to help families, they’ll find ways to live within their means, not continue to tax and fee people out of their jobs. In fact, job retention and creation is the special interest on the mind of every Illinois family.”
Glenn Hodas is executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity. His email address is [email protected].
For more information …
visit the Coalition’s Web site at http://www.jobsillinois.us.